The Masque of Anarchy

In August 1819, a gathering of 20,000 working people assembled in Manchester to listen to “Orator” Hunt. The meeting was to have been entirely constitutional in character, and the workers brought their wives and babes as hostages for their good behaviour. The meeting had but fairly started when a regiment of cavalry charged down upon it, trampling and killing men, women and children. The magistrates who ordered the massacre – The Battle of Peterloo is its working class name – were exonerated by the Government (Source: Vigilant, Westralian Worker, 8 June, 1917)

The poet Shelley, in Italy at the time, heard the news of the Peterloo Massacre and wrote The Masque of Anarchy, which ends:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep has fallen on you
Ye are many – they are few

The poem can be read in its entirety in the Anarchy Archives, an online research centre of the history and theory of Anarchism

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